Keys to becoming a Succesful Hitter
As a kid growing up playing baseball, from little league until freshman year in high school, the only pitch that you that you really see thrown well is the fastball. Even if you do see a curveball thrown during that time it is usually more of a gravity ball (meaning that it is just a pitch that is thrown so slowly that gravity pulls it down, not the rotation of the ball), than a curveball. In order to succeed as a varsity baseball player you must be able to hit the two most common pitches in baseball, the fastball and the curveball, with great regularity. Knowing this, how do you recognize a curveball from a fastball, and how do you hit them?
Ted Williams, the greatest hitter of all time, in my opinion, said. “HITTING a baseball-I’ve said it a thousand times-is the single most difficult thing to do in sport…” With this said, I don’t plan on curing your swing or suddenly turning a crappy hitter into a great one, but with a few tips and a lot of work, you can hopefully make yourself a better, smarter hitter.
First, you must learn how to recognize the difference between a fastball and a curveball. To do this you have to know where to look. Imagine that there is a window about a foot to the right or the left of the pitchers head, depending upon if he is right or left-handed. This is where you will first see the ball; this position is called the release point. The quicker you can find the ball at this position the greater chance you have to determine if it is a fastball or a curveball. When looking for a fastball the pitchers hand and entire under arm will be facing you. This makes a fastball easier to recognize because it looks normal. A curveball, when in this same position, is rotated. The underarm is now turned and the wrist is no longer straightforward. Looking at the release point can help you determine what pitch is coming.
A hint that could be helpful in hitting the fastball and curveball is its flight path. A fastball travels relatively straight at all times, (even a cut fastball which pitchers haven’t developed while in high school) but a curveball travels completely differently. A curveball curves downward. This happens because of the balls effect on the air around it. The air evenly passes by a fastball, but the air bends around a curveball because of its rotation. Air gets sucked under the ball causing the ball to drop. Since more air is getting pulled under the ball, the faster the rotation the more the drop.
When attempting to hit a curveball you just need to realize that even if your eyes play tricks on you and the ball seems to break sharp late, the ball is breaking consistently a little more and more as it travels to the plate. So if you are facing a pitcher that throws mostly curveballs, move up in the batters box, closer to the pitcher. This way you can eliminate some of the brake. If you are standing too deep in the box, far away from the pitcher, the ball can cross the plate a strike, but then be too low by the time you try to hit it.
When hitting a fastball you simply see it and hit it, but when hitting a curveball you have to swing much quicker. You need to wait a moment longer, then swing harder. You can get away with swinging quicker on a curveball because it is traveling on a curve; by swinging harder and quicker you can catch the ball with the bat, if you swing too slow the ball will seem to evade your bat because you will almost always be late.
If you want to succeed in baseball you have to develop a sense of when certain pitches might be thrown. If you have an idea of what pitch is coming you can greatly increase your chance of hitting the ball successfully. Even at the varsity level you can almost always expect to see a first pitch fastball, knowing this I would still not recommend swinging. Use this pitch to time yourself up so you are prepared to hit a pitch at that speed. This way you can also adjust to slower pitches as well, it is easier to gear down than to gear up. When you have two strikes on yourself you can almost always expect a curveball. In these situations I still prepare myself for a fastball, but if I do recognize that it is a curveball I slow myself down and then swing quick. It is always better to have the mentality that a fastball is coming because it’s much easier to slow down your body than suddenly have to react very quickly.
Even with all these hints I can’t help you hit a round ball square with a round bat, but hopefully these little hints and pieces of information can make you a better, smarter hitter. Ted Williams once said, “Hitting is fifty percent above the shoulders.” So, if you can master that fifty percent, that’s half of an at-bat that you no longer have to worry about.